On Wednesday, I went to see the film, Top Secret Rosies and participate in a Q & A with the director afterwards. The film is well worth seeing for anyone interested in the beginnings of computing and especially for those interested in women in math and computing. During the Q & A, someone asked about getting women/girls interested in CS and the director’s response was that they needed to get to girls sooner, preferably middle school. A couple of people around me poked me. I wanted to jump up and shout, “Yes!”
I don’t know that many people that try to teach CS of any kind in middle school, and I, myself, balance teaching applications and skills students need for their other classes and basic computing skills. I’m especially proud of my sixth graders who work with HTML and CSS and who learn a little about web protocols and how the Internet works. While that’s not strictly code, it introduces them to the idea that humans tell computers what to do through special languages–and we even talk about binary.
And we begin learning about the logic of programming in eighth grade through Scratch. I’m also doing an after school session for 4th and 5th graders where they’ll be doing a little of everything that I do across the middle school. I’m planting seeds that I hope will grow into my future CS students and our future programmers and problem solvers.
The film made pretty clear that women have a long history of being discouraged from pursing highly technical and mathematical careers. To some extent, I still see the uphill battle I’m fighting as some girls still tell me how “uncool” is it to be good at computer science. That makes me sad, and I hope that five years from now, I won’t be hearing that as often.